Themes Explored: fantasy, romance, love, magic, battle, fire, mythology, sacrifice, death, joy, despair, relationships, piracy, evil, prophesies, demons, possession, witchery, illusion, elves, immortality, ancestors, descendants, premonition, deception, shapeshifting, legacy, assassination, training, loyalty
Synopsis: The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.
As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear (Adapted from Goodreads).
Empire of Storms, Bloomsbury USA Childrens, 2016, ISBN 9781619636071
Review: The Throne of Glass series holds a special place on my bookshelf, I always thoroughly enjoy each installment, and Empire of Storms is no exception. I am also a little jealous, I wish I had written this series. Everything fits together perfectly and this is one of the few current young adult fantasy series with fully developed secondary and primary characters. Sarah J Maas has mastered the art of pulling people into an adventure and not letting go until the last page. Each installment has me desperately waiting for the next installment. Now, while it is not necessary, I highly recommend reading The Assassin’s Blade before reading Empire of Storms. The Assassin’s Blade contains the prequel novellas and will add context to several of the key characters and plot twists that occur; especially since Maas seems to have written the plot under the assumption that everyone has read the novellas.
Empire of Storms is the fifth installment in a six book series and the plot pacing reflects this point. All of the action and character movement clearly points to a buildup for the final battle over the soul of Erilea and the rest of this wonderful world. While many of the plot threads still need some resolution, the ending does not feel far away. All the plot twists and character maneuvering points to a violent resolution. A lot of questions from the past four books finally receive some answers, but new questions also arise. Cliffhangers only increase the anticipation for the sixth book. If Empire of Storms is any indication, the series will go out with a bang, and hopefully on a happy note.
This series does delve into some incredibly dark places and this installment dives deeply into a well of darkness. All the consequences from previous decisions come to light in this installment and shows the unthinkable evil threatening the lifeblood of Erilea. Be prepared for some rather graphic depictions of brutal violence; this is definitely the most “R” rated book in the series. In addition to the violence, Maas does explore the more intimate aspects of Aelin and Rowan’s physical relationship. If that is the type of passage you wish to avoid reading, then just be aware that they exist. Though, relative to the violence, these scenes are more a PG-13 than R level content.
Perhaps the strongest aspect of Maas’ stories lies in the multi-faceted and complex characters. Aelin/Celaena comes across as a mentally and physically strong woman with many layers. In this book she is trying to transition from smart mouthed assassin to a battle hardened warrior Queen. What I really appreciate is that Maas does not depict Aelin as a saint. She does possess a lot of spunk, bravery, cunning, intelligence, and moments of selflessness. However, Aelin is also incredibly selfish, stubborn, and secretive, sometimes to her own detriment. She loves ferociously, but lies constantly, to everyone. I appreciate the complexity. Despite all her faults, Aelin at least gives herself wholeheartedly to her mission to vanquish the otherworldly evil encroaching on her kingdom.
Over the course of the five books, the cast of characters has grown exponentially. Unlike the previous four books, Empire of Storms’ narrative spends most of the story focusing on characters who are not directly related to Aelin, at least not until the climax. Most of the main characters-Aelin, Dorian, Manon, Rowan, Lysandra, Aedion, Lorcan-have significant story arcs detailing their personal agendas and development. What I appreciate is Maas allowing the relationships between the characters to grow realistically instead of opting for the popular YA trope of painfully obvious geniality. Maas does not shy away from allowing her characters to experience terrible consequences in addition to the happier moments. This adds a good dose of realism to the story and makes the characters more relatable.
Other than Aelin/Celaena, my favorite female character is Manon Blackbeak. Her character development over the past two books is amazing. In one sense she is the direct foil to Aelin: dispassionate, rational, calculating, able to control her emotions (to a point). Though she is also just like Aelin in that she is highly loyal to her Thirteen wyvern riders and is not afraid to do what she thinks is right, regardless of what others think. Manon is a strong female character and her confrontations with Dorian are a highlight in the narrative. I will not divulge any other details in case some of you have not read the book yet. Overall, I think this is a solid addition to the series and perfectly sets up the climax for book six. If you are a fan of the Throne of Glass Series, then you need to read this book.